Welcome to the High Holy Days

My Dear Friends –

Welcome to a High Holy Day season unlike any other.

Connected, yet separate, we will seek the sacred as we enter 5781 — in our congregation, with our families, in our homes, and within ourselves.

We will celebrate, reflect, learn, and pray in ways that not long ago, we never would have imagined. I hope that each of you will take time throughout the Days of Awe to pause from the demands of daily routines to be inspired by our clergy, liturgy, music, and our many study sessions. I hope that the experiences we have created for you, to help lessen the physical separation among us, will provide you with community and prepare your hearts and minds for a New Year – one that we all pray will bring us back together in person, safely and comfortably.

I want to thank all of you for your continued commitment and connection to Washington Hebrew. The collective experience of our members is what created our past, defines our present, and will shape our future. Your presence, even if just in a Zoom box, gives life and vitality to who we are and all that we do. And because we depend upon all of you, we are grateful that you remain engaged, as and when you can, despite the challenges the pandemic has presented to everyone.

We know that the pandemic has made continuing membership difficult for some. We understand that financial pressures, and perhaps, a feeling that this time of physical distancing is a good time to “pause” membership, can lead to a decision to separate from WHC. But now more than ever, we all need connection and support. And at its core, this is what your Congregation provides. We are here for you, but only with you, will we remain here.

We remain committed to working with you so that we will stay connected and our spiritual community can thrive and grow. If you need help during these difficult times, please ask. Help is the core of our community, and isn’t the support of your community preferable to separation from it?

We are so encouraged by, and grateful for, the fantastic response we have had to our new Sustaining Member program. Thank you. So many of you have volunteered to provide us with the added support that will enable us to ensure that membership will remain open and available to all who desire it. This dynamic, with our community coming together to support each other, is like the shofar blasts that we all will hear in the coming days. The impact will resonate through these High Holy Days and carry us together toward a future of hope, health, and happiness.

Together, we will define the weeks and months ahead. Traditionally, as we welcome the High Holy Days, we present a detailed calendar for the fall. As you would expect, we already have many exciting speakers and programs being planned. We will discuss racial equity and our response to it in a new Congregational Conversation. Our ongoing partnership with the Jewish Book Council will bring more than a dozen authors to our Zoom screens, and lifelong learning classes will continue online with weekly classes, both familiar and new. And, the (online) face of Washington Hebrew is getting an update, and we will debut a new website with enhanced features and easier navigation. To help you make the transition, our Communications team will be holding a series of Zoom sessions. Details for all of this and more will be coming soon.

More than ever before, your clergy, staff, and lay leadership are looking around corners and planning for change. While always guided by health and safety considerations, we remain flexible as we plan for a gradual return of in-person activities – from our early childhood programs, to life cycle events, to lifelong learning and worship, to gathering just to be together. Some of this will look different than it has in the past, and our programs and gatherings will continue to evolve as public health conditions allow. I cannot give you an assurance of the specific timing of our next steps (as much as I wish I could), but I can promise that 5781 will be a remarkable journey. I look forward to taking that journey with all of you.

As we journey ahead together, I look forward to hearing from you with comments and suggestions. In the near term, I look forward to continuing to meet and talk with you virtually. I know I will once again see you in person at Temple events, and I so look forward to that time and opportunity. In the meantime, though, you can drop me an email at president@whctemple.org or leave me a voicemail at 202-895-6301.

On behalf of the entire Board of Directors, I hope that your High Holy Day worship is both meaningful and memorable. This year, in particular, be sure to embrace what is new and cherish what is familiar. I wish all of you and your loved ones a happy, healthy, and sweet New Year.

L’shana Tovah!